Any man that hath no beard she be too much a woman for him, and the man that hath a beard he be too much a man for her. That’s Beatrice of Much Ado About Nothing in a nutshell as presented by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company. I sat down with actress Chandish Nester to see if she subscribes to these particular philosophies.
Amanda: Beatrice defies the model of Shakespearean women, particular the cookie-cutter role of a woman in the 1950s, how do you justify this characterization in your portrayal of her.
Chandish: Well, at the risk of sounding cheesy I’m going to say that it’s supported by the text. She’s essentially written to defy. I suppose Shakespeare’s portrayal of women in general is different from her but that’s what makes her so exciting as a character. Well, maybe it’s not Shakespeare’s portrayal of women so much as it is that so many of his women have a tendency to be demure or at times static. But Beatrice seems to have freedom and contradicts that. She has the ability to contradict herself, to be both strong and outspoken but still at times very vulnerable.
It is a challenge to balance both sides of that spectrum but it makes it all the more interested to tread that line, to have two different characters inside of her going on at once; people in real life every day are full of contradictions.
It’s easier to play her sassy side but I’m always looking for the vulnerability in every moment. There’s always something vulnerable in her sass, say with Benedick, if he’s the center of a barbed response then what is she really hurt by that makes her fire off at him? It’s finding that vulnerability beneath her sass in moments like that that really help justify her as a whole to me.
How do you like the 1950s adaptation?
I really enjoy the romanticism of the period. Of course the costuming aspect of it, the full skirts really aid in the development of the character for me, really developing her movement. The smoking aspect of it, which is of course Grayson’s favorite.
Grayson Owen: My favorite is the smoking. And the drinking. Don’t forget the drinking.
Chandish: Hush. You’re not even with me right now, you’re flying all over the place
Grayson: I’m baking and cleaning and trying to keep the children entertained! I’m being a housewife right now!
Chandish: On a side note, Grayson and I are living together for the run of this production. It helps with the fighting chemistry on stage. What was I saying? Right. Working with the text in 50’s, it brings out the real cookie cutter family frame work and the idea of courtship, which is completely different from now.
I do really, god this is really hard. How do I related to the 1950’s? Let it be known that this is my first interview ever…but anyway, courtship today is very different today than it was in that period, in the 50’s. So I find it very interesting to step back into that period and take on those practices, adapting them to Shakespeare’s words and trying to keep that all straight from what I’m used to in today’s modern times.
Beatrice rails vehemently against the idea of love and marriage and men. Do you find that you are similar to her in this notion or maybe more opposite?
Well, definitely not the opposite. I’m similar. I mean, we are similar. But she’s a character. I’m a person. It’s not as if I relate her to myself with crazy substitution when I’m playing her, but I think because I can relate to her that I do understand her better. And I think I’m just going to leave it at that.
Where do you find your inspiration or what’s your process like getting into Beatrice?
Well, it’s similar to other actor answers that I’m sure you’ve gotten, especially with anyone you’ve interviewed in this cast. Grayson starts with movement, and so do I in a sense. While I was working the dialogue in the first week I was getting to find out how she moved. Grayson is more of a Grotowski movement based person I am much more Lessac vocal and movement based. So I would find the energy in her movement and moved on from there.
And then once I had the movement I would go about the specifics filling in the details in regards to her back story. I have her back story in my head I just don’t think people really want to hear it. I think with finding her energy in her movement I was interesting in finding balance in what was graceful and what was awkward about her. Beatrice and Benedick are both stately and both awkward at times. So it’s interesting finding those moments of both that just happen naturally. She’s centered but with a sense of radiancy to her movement which definitely reflects into her personality.
What is Beatrice’s most difficult moment for you to master?
Well, at first everyone thinks one seven (Act I, scene VII) which we’ve taken to calling the Beatrice Gulling scene. It’s the scene where Ursula and Hero spring the trap to make her think Benedick is in love with her. One seven presents its own challenges in the sense that it’s so physical, and it’s all comic timing. But for me the most challenging moment is the scene after the wedding in the church with Benedick. It presents a larger challenge in that I end up having to tread such a find line of the comedy and the gravity of what’s just happened in the scene before it. It’s very tricky to balance them both because you don’t want it to be this heavy serious thing but at the same time you can’t just ignore all of the really heavy stuff that just happened.
Do you have anyone that has really inspired you for Beatrice?
I think— no, there’s no specific person so much as both Benedick and Beatrice are just incredibly relatable. You’re able to see aspects of yourself in those characters.
What has it been like working with Annapolis Shakespeare Company?
Alright, let’s start this off right. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone. Everyone is from a different area— Alex (who plays Dogberry) is from a different planet, and also the shire— so it’s a mixed bag of experiences coming to the table. We worked really in depth with the text and in such a short period of time, it was a great learning experience as well as giving me the chance to work on choreography. I came into this without— well I don’t have any dance experience, at least not any formal training so having that opportunity was really nice.
So dancing, and getting to know everyone— oh! And having time allotted with Terry (Terry Bouma the show’s vocal coach) for voice work was really nice especially with the time constraints. As an actor you just want to get through and get memorized but working with Terry really gave me the chance to just slow down and mull over what’s really in it as opposed to just saying what I’ve memorized.
Is there anyone in the cast who has been an inspiration to you during this process?
Well not Grayson. Grayson Owen is the most narcissistic person and Grayson Owen will admit to it. Just kidding. J I love Grayson, he’s been so great to work with, and live with. We’ve really become great friends! But seriously, there are so many people in this cast that have such a great sense of discipline in their approach to work that I’m just amazed.
So I would have to say that it’s hard to just say someone specific because they’re all so amazing but in terms of character if I have to say anyone I would say all the other females because it helped to figure out for me where Beatrice fits into the mix. Yeah. Brevity.
What is the scene where you feel most closely connected to Beatrice?
Any scene where I’m able to let the private Beatrice out. Um, in the wedding scene when she goes to comfort Hero I feel like you really see Beatrice’s capacity to love and to be caring. So often in the play people are referring to her lack of feeling or lack of said capacity to love. And just being able to find those moments where you do see the depth of her existence, that she’s more than just sass and anti-men, that she has this softer much more vulnerable side with a capacity to love; that’s where I connect to her.
And I think a part of that is finding something new in what other actors are giving me every night. It’s always different. The line isn’t going to be the same the look isn’t going to be the same and that keeps it lively and helps me stay connected. I feel like working with Grayson we’re not— we can just let it shift in any particular scene and let it grow. We try not to let it be the same and try to find the spontaneity from line to line and that keeps Beatrice real.
What, if anything, do you think Beatrice is afraid of?
I think she’s brave. I think her railing against marriage and her railing against the idea stems from a kind of inadequacy that she feels inside of her. So in place of that she substitutes in wit, this finally honed wit that she uses to make up for what she feels she’s lacking. I don’t want to speak for Grayson here, but personally I think this is true of Benedick too.
With Beatrice’s past, not having parental figures, I mean of course she has her uncle, but she may just be inexperienced with affection, or at least with certain kinds of affection. But the capacity to love is definitely there, just may just not understand it.
What do you think Beatrice and Benedick’s wedding would have been like? Would she have gone all Bridezilla like Hero did getting ready? And where would they take their honeymoon?
No no, I think she would have been very sensible about her wedding because she never would have expected it. It wasn’t something she ever thought she’d do. So it would be a very small, private wedding. It would be not much ado. Ooh…where would they go…well they’re already in the Caribbean…so…they’d travel. They’d take a full adventure. Or they’d do something super nerdy like go check into the motel next door for the weekend. It would be the campiest of honeymoons. Either really cheesy or really adventurous. Or maybe both.
What is your favorite barbing insult that Beatrice bites at Benedick?
I’m always fond of “…scratching could not make it worse an ‘twere such a face as yours were…” But a close second is not directly to Benedick but rather about him, where it goes “I see, lady, the gentlemen is not in your books.” And then Beatrice replies “No, an he were I would burn my study!”
‘Much To Learn About’ Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Part 1: Choreographer Ken Skrzesz by Joel Markowitz.
‘Much To Learn About’ Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Part 2: Alyssa Bouma (Hero) by Amanda Gunther.
‘Much To Learn About’ Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Part 3: Michael Ryan Neely (Claudio) by Amanda Gunther.
Much To Learn About’ Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Part 4: Alex Foley (Dogberry) by Amanda Gunther.
Amanda Gunther’s review of Much Ado About Nothing.
Much Ado About Nothing plays through August 18, 2013 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing at The Bowie Playhouse —16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.